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Lord Coleraine: My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish did not feel that this was something to get worked up about when the amendment he and his colleagues moved is possibly inaccurate. However, having listened to the Government Chief Whip, and in the hope that this amendment will have the approval of my Front Bench, I commend it to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 2, line 21, leave out ("most") and insert ("least").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 2, line 40, leave out ("life").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 11, which also affects Clause 3, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 12.

One of the functions of the commission under this clause is to report to Parliament whether or not certain criteria are being observed. One of the criteria, according to the Bill as it now stands, is that,

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The effect of that paragraph is to compare a mixture of life and hereditary Peers existing on the Cross Benches before the Act with life Peers only on their Benches and the Benches of the House after the Act. The effect would be to greatly magnify the number of Cross-Bench Peers who would be entitled, under the amendment, to sit, and to provide for a much greater number than was ever in the contemplation of my noble friends.

In this case I am taking a view that will diminish the rights of the Cross-Benchers under my noble friend's amendment whereas before I was trying to make it work more satisfactorily in their favour. Subsection(7)(c) should read, "the proportion of the Cross Bench peers to the total number of peers in the House remains the same as the proportion of the Cross Bench life peers to the total number of life peers in the House". I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I think, on past experience, that I shall tell my noble friend that I am not very fussed one way or another and the Government will promptly indicate that they quite favour his amendment. Then we will all be happy. I can see my noble friend's point. From the way that the clause is drafted, it seems to compare all Peers on the one hand, and then, on the other hand, life Peers. My noble friend's amendment would make it quite clear that the proportionality would be of life Peers on the Cross Benches to life Peers in the House at the time that the Bill comes into place.

Although I may be wrong, I calculate that the Bill as it currently stands would require that the present proportion of Cross-Bench Peers to the total of life Peers, which would have to be maintained, would be about 23.6 per cent. I do not know quite how the 0.6 per cent of the Cross Benches feel about that, but I suppose whether or not anyone gets in on that figure will depend very much on what it is a percentage of.

I do not quite know what the consequence of my noble friend's amendment would be in terms of a significant number change to the Bill as it stands. No doubt the Chief Whip will again inform us. If he is quite relaxed about it, then I am happy to be relaxed about it. However, I am not relaxed about the knowledge that, frankly, whatever we do with this clause, the Government propose to knock it out in the other place. I really do not accept the excuse that the commission would have been set up by now if we had not tabled this amendment. I cannot for the life of me see why this new clause changes anything. Indeed, the Government could simply set up the commission, or indicate when they intend to do so, regardless of what we seek to insert in the Bill--especially as they are quite clear that they will overturn it in the other place. I look forward to hearing what the Chief Whip has to say.

Lord Carter: My Lords, before I deal with the amendment, perhaps I may respond to the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. As I said earlier, we were advised that

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it would be inappropriate to try to set up the commission if there was a Bill before Parliament which was designed to establish a commission in a way with which the Government did not agree. I give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I do not agree with his argument, but I will accept it for the moment. Does that mean that the moment this Bill is passed we can expect the Government, within a week or two, to indicate the setting up of the commission?

Lord Carter: My Lords, the commission will be set up as soon as practicable after the Bill is passed. I will not say that that will happen in a couple of weeks, as the noble Lord would like me to. It will be very quickly after the Bill is passed. In fact, it would have been established by now in shadow and would, perhaps, be considering the New Year's Honours, but the Opposition have delayed the process by inserting Clause 3 into the Bill.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12--

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord can tell me whether my memory is wrong in recalling that certain commissions or shadow commissions were set up in connection with Northern Ireland while the Northern Ireland legislation was actually going through the House? It did not seem to restrain the Government then, so why should it restrain them now?

Lord Carter: My Lords, I am told that there was no amendment to that legislation which would have taken out the power of the commission. Therefore, the noble Lord's point is not correct. We were advised that it would be constitutionally inappropriate.

The purpose of Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 is to allow the Weatherill Peers to count towards maintaining the proper proportion of Cross-Bench Peers and to ensure that a true comparison of like with like is taking place. As with the previous amendments, we do not think that these amendments make the difference between acceptability or not of Clause 3 as a whole. In any case, they deal only with a reporting requirement, and not with the actual criteria for creations.

Once again, I think that the noble Lord may have spotted a genuine problem with the drafting of Clause 3--I wonder who did the drafting for the Opposition. We assume that the intention of Clause 3(7)(c) is to provide that the Cross-Bench share of the House remains roughly where it is now. Comparisons of the Cross-Bench share of the whole House and the Cross-Bench life Peer share of all life Peers both produce a figure between 20 per cent and 25 per cent. This is the sort of figure which I had always understood most people regarded as a reasonable and a ballpark figure for the transitional House.

However, a strict analysis of the current wording of the clause would suggest that, in future, the proper Cross-Bench share would be two-thirds of the House,

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as that is the proportion that all Cross-Bench Peers, including hereditary Peers, currently bear to the total number of life Peers. The comparison could be made accurate by inserting the word "life" into the clause before the term "Cross Bench".

The noble Lord has proposed a different approach, which takes account of the Weatherill Peers on both sides of the equation. As between the two approaches, we make no judgment. But either would be better than what is presently there. Therefore, if the noble Lord wishes to press the amendment to a vote, or put the matter to the House, we shall not resist it. That is entirely without prejudice to what my honourable friends in another place will do to the clause as a whole when the Bill is returned to them.

Lord Coleraine: My Lords, it seemed to me that my noble friend did get a little bit more healthily worked up about getting this right. He said that he could not work out the true figures. I must confess that I did not have them to hand, but I knew that there were about 220 Cross-Benchers who were hereditary Peers and that that was bound to have a considerable effect. I was glad that the noble Lord from the Government Front Bench was able to provide me with the full figures. I hope that this amendment will find favour. I seek the opinion of the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 2, line 41, leave out ("as it was") and insert ("the same as the proportion of the Cross Bench life peers to the total number of life peers in the House").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 2, line 42, at end insert ("; and
(d) more than half of the total membership of the House of Lords is composed of peers who, in the opinion of the Commission have experience of, and expertise in, fields other than (or in addition to) politics").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have degrouped this amendment with Amendment No. 14 and have informed the Table, both Front Benches and the Deputy Speaker.

My noble friend Lord Caithness and I moved similar amendments to this in Committee and on Report, a principle of which received support from both Front Benches. The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, was particularly sympathetic on Report. Her main objection was that the time was not right. I hope that your Lordships will agree with us that this most certainly is the time to decide, and let the public know, who are to be the future Members of the interim House, which, inevitably, must influence the final reformed House--if that is ever to happen.

Indeed, the prime concern of the odd person outside the Chamber, who is at all interested in your Lordships' House, is not that the hereditary Peers should continue but who is to follow us. I should have

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liked a much more explicit amendment, but then I fear it would have been considered a wrecking amendment; and this amendment is not. The amendment spells this out by stating that over 50 per cent of the Members should have had, or, more importantly, continue to have, experience and expertise in some other sphere than politics. Everyone in your Lordships' House knows those who fall within that category. They have been referred to today, not least by my noble friend Lord Cranborne. Sometimes they are euphemistically called "specialist Peers".

Although I have not put my name forward for one of the 92 hereditary vacancies, I am most anxious that your Lordships' House should have credibility in the future. Bearing in mind that the standing of professional politicians is at an all-time low--partly because they are alleged to know everything about nothing--this amendment would ensure that your Lordships' House would not be so condemned. It would ensure that at least 50 per cent of the Members' main reason to be there was outside party politics. I am absolutely convinced that that is what the great majority of people would like to see.

Before I get castigated by the loyal party members, I should say that I fully accept that there is a need for the dedicated, professional politician. However, like good claret, even though it is French, too much of it is disastrous. In any event, our amendment suggests that 49 per cent of the House could be dedicated party politicians.

On Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, had the following problems with our amendment. She asked whether the Law Lords and Bishops would be included. They, like life Peers, would, as of right, be Members of the interim Chamber. Of course if the noble Baroness wants to allow our amendment to affect the composition of the final reformed Chamber I am sure that we on this side of the House would be delighted, but somehow or other I doubt whether she or her noble friends would appreciate that very much.

The noble Baroness and other noble Lords--I think the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, in particular--asked how expertise and experience would be defined. The Prime Minister has promised us an appointments commission; indeed it is now in the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has said, if it is taken out of the Bill it will be put back again quite soon afterwards. If the appointments commission cannot make a decision on that matter, I know not what use it will be. For instance--if I may make a personal point here--I know that even I after a few minutes' conversation can tell whether someone who claims to be a competent and experienced farmer has those qualifications. Please do not say therefore that my amendment is defective because the body cannot judge who is who. If it cannot do that, please let us not have an appointments commission.

The noble Baroness's final objection--I have to say she would be inconsistent if she did not say that--was, "Never do today what you can put off until

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tomorrow", in which she was supported, I am sorry to say, by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, whom I do not think is present.

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